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More spinn’d against than spinning?: public opinion, political communication, and Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Strong, James (2012) More spinn’d against than spinning?: public opinion, political communication, and Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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When Tony Blair took Britain to war in Iraq in 2003, he overruled vociferous opposition from both the wider public and members of his own governing party. Public opinion was exercised by the issue on a vast scale. Over one million marched in London against the war. Opinion polls uniformly showed majority opposition to the use of force. Newspapers, the engine of media debate in this country, mostly attacked the government line, and encouraged their readers to protest or even, in one case, to rebel. The story of Iraq, however, is not simply one of an ideological or misguided premier dragging the entire nation to battle against its will. It is not simply one of ‘spin’, dossiers, Alastair Campbell, and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Much of the debate, and much of the hostility it generated, focused on areas that foreign policy analysts would consider peripheral; the domestic political consequences of war, the role of ‘spin doctors’ in the assessment of intelligence, and the question of whether the Prime Minister’s (successful) efforts to build a strong alliance with the world’s last superpower had transformed him into the President’s ‘poodle’. Interactions between ministers and the media were conditioned on both sides by an intimidating array of structural pressures. Diplomatic and journalistic calculations often clashed, trapping the government in the middle of an immensely complex ‘multi-level game’. News management influenced substantive foreign policy just as policy influenced news management, and the media arguably affected both, albeit often indirectly. The substance and the communication of the decision to go to war proved to be inseparable, both in the course of decision-making, and in their later retrospective assessment. Public Opinion, broadly defined, had a significant impact on British foreign policy at this time. Crucially, however, this impact operated through political communication mechanisms usually ignored by FPA.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 James Strong
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Kent, John

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